Well, it’s been a long wait, but it’s finally here. It’s been eighteen long months and two iterations since the initial release of Rockstar’s record-shattering Grand Theft Auto V on last-gen consoles, and the highly anticipated PC version has finally been unleashed upon the general public. While we may have been witness to some highs (the original releases managed to secure the record for the biggest media launch of all time) and lows (first few days of GTA Online, anyone?), the PC community have patiently waited for their time in San Andreas sun.
But has the wait been worth it? Like a large portion of the PC community, I’ve spent the last few days with Grand Theft Auto V and everything it has to offer. While I’ve only barely scratched the surface of what this game has to offer, it was still time for us to bring you a brief first impression.
Let’s get this out of the way and tell you what you already know – the PC version is the ultimate Grand Theft Auto V experience, without question. This is an unholy amalgamation of the PS4 and Xbox One remasters, fused with a combination of steroids and some sort of experimental drug you’ve never seen before. With the PC release being the only version capable of the often-sought 60FPS framerate, the streets of Los Santos glide past your vehicle as you drive, smooth as butter. The odd technical hiccup aside (there is some slight pop-in with distant vehicles and textures), it’s pretty difficult to fault what you’ll see as soon as the game loads. At the higher end of the visual settings scale, the game is simply breathtaking to behold. San Andreas really does feel (for lack of such a clichéd term) like a living, breathing location.
The entire county has had a coat of spit-shine applied. From the all-new flora and fauna that populate the wilderness, to the neon-soaked streets of Los Santos, it’s nothing less than a pleasure to explore. And of course there’s the new first-person perspective that allows you to see every intricate inch of excruciating detail present in Rockstar’s masterpiece. While feeling fluidic and responsive (the game supports both controller and keyboard + mouse, which can be switched on the fly), the new first person mode has carried over a slightly irritating trait from its console counterparts – the FoV (field of view) is simply just too low. PC gamers are naturally used to a higher FoV than console users, since most of us would sit closer to our screens or monitors. It seems that the FoV values have simply been ported from console versions, which is a slight disappointment. However this is a small, niggling issue that could very easily be resolved in a later patch, so there’s no need to despair about this matter for now.
There is a simultaneous sense of déja vú and excitement as you spend your first few hours in the game. Everything looks and feels familiar, yet completely new. It’s an exciting feeling that I wish was possible more often in this current climate of remasters and re-releases. Make no mistake, if this isn’t your first visit to San Andreas, you will likely spend your first few hours just looking around and enjoying the opportunity to see things that you simply just couldn’t in older versions. Nearly all in-game text such as signposts, discarded magazines and notices are all completely legible now, with the game enjoying a large haul of hidden comedic gems for you to uncover as a result. There are also a number of nice little additions that will add to your experience without subtracting from it if you don’t take advantage. The nicest of these little additions in my opinion is Self Radio, a brand new radio station designed to play tracks specified by the user from their own music library. In a game based primarily around heists, who wouldn’t want a little bit of “Stuck in the Middle With You” creeping through their speakers?
And then of course there’s GTA Online, a dedicated section of the game that opens up San Andreas to you, your own custom character, and 29 other potential psychopaths. For a lot of people, this is where the game really shines. While there have been intermittent issues regarding connection time-outs or the rare freeze during a mission, the majority of the experience has been a pleasant one. It was also nice to welcome back my old character from the Xbox 360 version, and see him updated with tighter textures and shading. After an incredibly long delay, GTA Online has seen the welcome addition of Heists – big jobs that come with big risks and even bigger rewards. I’ve only played two heists myself (the 2-man introduction and the Bank Job), the latter of which stole an entire weekend from myself and my crew. The co-ordination needed to plan and execute these heists is nothing short of military precision – there is no room for wildcards or those who have trouble communicating effectively with their teammates. When you feel you’ve done your time with the game’s three main protagonists, you owe it to yourself to give these a look. Just be sure to have a capable crew on hand.
In closing remarks, Grand Theft Auto V on PC is everything I personally wanted it to be, and much, much more. It’s seemingly one of the most scalable titles I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing on PC, and looks like it could run fairly well on the most humble of low-end rigs to the fastest Titan-powered behemoth you could find. Having only just scratched the surface of this monster, you’ve just been provided a brief rundown of everything I’ve experienced thus far. We’ll be sure to bring you more on Grand Theft Auto V as it comes – we know Rockstar still have something up their sleeve that they haven’t told us about yet…
Grand Theft Auto V is now available on all major formats. All featured screenshots were taken during our time with the PC version of the game, with the majority of settings at high/very high presets.
Andy Phelan (OG Caker)